The Zeitgeist of Z

March 27th 2017

You might have noticed a significant change within the fashion world of late. From adverts and billboards to front covers and front rows there has been a distinct gravitation towards young personalities and faces. While the fashion and beauty industry’s obsession with youthfulness is nothing new, this recent shift has seen high fashion embrace the latest generation, and we don’t mean millennials. Enter Generation Z: born in the mid 1990s to early 2000s, Generation Z is the first generation to be born after the introduction of the internet, making its cohorts true digital natives. The new wave of celebrity offspring and social media stars such as Cameron Dallas, Lily-Rose Depp, Iris Law and Brandon Lee are becoming the poster boys and girls for some of fashion’s most revered luxury brands represent this new demographic. In our March issue we explored the meteoric rise of this gereration within the world of fashion. Here, marketing consultant and Generation Z specialist Nancy Nessel speaks to MOJEH about fashion's fixation with Gen Z and the effect this demographic is having on luxury industry.

Karl Lagerfeld pictured backstage with Chanel bride Lily-Rose Depp at the
Karl Lagerfeld pictured backstage with Chanel bride Lily-Rose Depp at the Maison's spring 2017 Haute Couture show.

How important are Generation Z as consumers and why?

Gen Z consumers are very important consumers because of their numbers, spending potential and interest in clothing.  According to Internet Retailer 2016, they are growing up to be the single largest group of consumers worldwide. By 2020 they will be the largest group of consumers worldwide making up 40 per cent of the market in the US, Europe and BRIC countries and 10 per cent in the rest of the world.  Gen Z accounts for 29 per cent of the global population with 1.9 billion globally, 62 million in the US under age 21.

Gen Z delivers very high earning potential - they expect to work harder than Millennials and have a fierce drive to succeed. Gen Z are forming their spending habits now with clothing currently their largest spending category according to a Piper Jaffrey survey. Gen Z is concerned about their wardrobe, finding pleasure in presenting themselves well to make a good impression in person and on social media. 

Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger walk the runway during the brand s spring summer17
Gigi Hadid and Tommy Hilfiger walk the runway during the brand's spring/summer17 show staged in Los Angeles.

Why are storied fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Chanel choosing to feature members of Gen Z in their runway shows and advertising campaigns?

  1. Fashion brands are featuring members of Gen Z because they represent hope, aspiration, and freedom of self-expression.  Gen Z are at the forefront of a radical shift in society:  they are pioneers for breaking down boundaries, embracing gender and ethnic diversity so that it’s a norm.  Their ambition and passion for expression and altruism gives us hope. Many empowered Gen Z are the voices leading change today, and we can expect to see many more promoting the new norm of a society without boundaries.

    Luxury brands want to align with pioneering members of Gen Z who stand out based on self-expression over physical representation. Brands are wise to being forming loyalty today, during the aspirational buying period and building a value proposition today that will pay off in the future. 

Are brands at risk of alienating their current loyal customers? If so, how do they engage a new generation of consumer while maintaining meaningful relationships with their existing older customers?

I don’t believe so.  Until their spending power increases, I don’t see much overlap among traditional and Gen Z tastse.  Most Gen Z members that I have interviewed are not buying their parents' favourite luxury brands. However, the new brand identities defined by Gen Z will give the luxury industry the jolt that it needs to resonate with more consumers who share the new values presented by a repositioned high-end brand.  

Tinie Tempah Cameron Dallas Gabriel Kane Day-Lewis and Brandon Thomas Lee sit
Tinie Tempah, Cameron Dallas, Gabriel Kane Day-Lewis and Brandon Thomas Lee sit front row at Dolce&Gabbana's spring17 show.

What values and priorities do Generation Z hold that will have a positive impact on the fashion industry?
Gen Z seeks gender fluidity and gender agnostic consumption, examples of this can be seen through of Jaden Smith and Young Thug wearing women’s clothing. Gen Z will also pay more for brands created or aligned with a cause or charity.